Actuary Certification

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Actuaries earn around $97,000 per year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Actuaries earn around $97,000 per year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Image: Jupiterimages/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

If you have ever wondered what causes an increase in your insurance bill, the answer is actuarial science. An actuary is a professional who uses mathematics, statistics and financial theory to study future events. Insurance companies and pension programs use actuaries to analyze the risk associated with unpleasant future events such as fires, car accidents and deaths. Actuaries put these possible events into quantifiable rates, so that insurance companies know how much to charge their customers. A lot of work is required to become an actuary.

Education

A love of numbers will certainly help a person who want to pursue an actuary certification. Most employers require that their actuaries have a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science, math, statistics or business. Finance, accounting and economics degrees with a strong math emphasis are also usually acceptable. Actuaries use a lot of higher math in their jobs, such as differential and integral calculus. Taking classes in these subjects is strongly recommended for those pursuing an actuary certification.

Certification

To reach the first level of actuary certification, you must pass a series of five to seven exams. The process usually takes from four to eight years. There are two professional societies that sponsor the programs that lead to full professional status in their respective specialties. The Society of Actuaries (SOA) certifies actuaries working in life insurance, health benefits systems, retirement systems and finance and investment. The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) certifies actuaries in the field of property and casualty (e.g. auto, home, medical malpractice, etc.).

The first four actuarial exams are the same, and both the SOA and CAS sponsor them. You must pass the first exam before taking the next one and so on. Many potential actuaries begin taking these exams while still in college. After the first four exams, it gets a bit more complex.

SOA

If you choose to be an actuary under the SOA, you must take the first four exams plus one more. Then it is time to choose your specialty -- individual life and annuities, retirement benefits, etc. You must then complete the coursework required by both societies in applied statistics, corporate finance and economics. Finally, you must complete eight computer modules, two essays and a seminar in professionalism. This will allow you to reach the associate level of certification. If you wish to reach the fellowship level, you must take an additional two exams in your specialty, complete three computer modules, take another seminar in professionalism and complete a course in fellowship admissions.

CAS

If you choose to become an actuary certified by the CAS, you must complete seven exams to attain the first, or associate, level of certification. In addition to these exams, you must also complete the coursework required by both societies and attend a course on professionalism. If you decide to reach the fellowship level of certification, you must take an additional two tests.

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